It’s Veteran’s Day, so let’s take a moment to honor this under-appreciated automotive soldier, the M422 Mighty Mite. Made by AMC, this little shrunken Jeep had America’s only air-cooled V4 used in a car, ever, I think. Made primarily for the Marines, these things were tiny and tough and light and designed to be dropped from helicopters.
Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)
It is remarkable to me the time frame in which flight advanced. The first meaningful flights...sustained, manned flight in which the pilots took off and landed safely at the same point...were in 1907-ish for both fixed wing and helicopters. Military funding was provided immediately and the Italians were bombing the Turks in 1911. Fast forward just 30 years and we’re dropping the predecessor of the UTV from helicopters in other countries across the ocean. Automotive technology didn’t seem to advance as quickly. We started out going 18 MPH and by the 40's we’d broken 100 MPH for production and practical vehicles. (All this comes from Wikipedia, so don’t beat me up, go edit an article!)
Then it all stagnated. Look at a vehicle from 1945 and one from 1965. Then jump by decades. It doesn’t seem like we had significant improvements until the 2000's. Many would say they aren’t improvements. “Give me high quality mechanical’s over fidgety and unpredictable electronics any day!”
Sure, we built fiberglass bodies vs. the old heavy steel, but the suspensions, braking, and engine technology was largely similar. “Hydromatic transmissions” and the like...not shining examples of progress. Add more cylinders, add more gears, digital dashboards (Woohoo!), tuning 100 year-old technology seems to be the automotive legacy.
We circumnavigated the globe 22 years-ish after the first flight. We went from a bicycle powered glider to jet engines in about 35 years. Electric cars seem to me to be the greatest advance in automotive history and it took aver 100 years to get there. What happened?